April 19, 2012

'Extreme Universe' Puzzle Deepens (Source: BBC)
The mystery surrounding the source of the highest-energy particles known in the Universe has grown deeper. The particles, known as cosmic rays, can show up with energies a million times higher than the biggest particle accelerators on Earth can produce. Astrophysicists believed that only two sources could make them: supermassive black holes in active galaxies, or so-called gamma ray bursts. A study in Nature has now all but ruled out gamma ray bursts as the cause.

Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are the brightest events we know of, though their sources remain a matter of some debate. They can release in hours more energy than our Sun will ever produce. Computer models predict that GRBs could be the source of cosmic rays - mostly subatomic particles called protons, accelerated to incredibly high speeds. But they were also predicted to produce a stream of neutrinos, the slippery subatomic particles recently brought to fame in claims of faster-than-light travel. (4/19)

Posey Introduces Bill to Revitalize Commercial Launch Industry (Source: SpaceRef)
Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) introduced legislation to allow for private sector investment in the Department of Defense for space transportation in an effort to modernize America's defense capabilities, promote America's commercial space industry and help America regain the loss of commercial launches. "We have been losing launches to overseas competitors and that is not good for our economic competiveness or our national security. We need to change that direction and my bill will do that," he said.

"We commend Congressman Posey for his tenacity in stripping away bureaucratic impediments," said Frank DiBello, President of Space Florida. "This new relationship will assure a more robust partnership between the State and the Pentagon. Through this legislation the taxpayer and the war-fighter will benefit as the commercial and military activity in Brevard move into a stronger and more diversified future."

The RACE for Space Act (Revitalizing America's Commercial Entrepreneurs (RACE) for Space Act) expands the Department of Defense' role to enhance strong partnerships between the Department of Defense and the private sector commercial entities. The legislation--HR-4401--does not spend any taxpayer money but does allow commercial space companies to use Defense Department space transportation infrastructure such as launch pads. (4/19)

Posey Bill Would Remove "Augmentation" Impediment (Source: SPACErePORT)
Rep. Posey's bill is partially the result of Air Force efforts to remove legal and policy barriers that tend to prohibit commercial activities and investments at its launch bases. The impediment targeted by HR-4401 involves the "augmentation" rule that prevents states and the private sector from using their non-federal money to improve or modify infrastructure developed by DOD for military programs. Such augmentation has been barred because it can be used to inappropriately influence the placement of DOD programs in states or at locations where they weren't intended by DOD.

An unintended consequence of the augmentation rule is that it prevents companies like ULA and SpaceX, and agencies like Space Florida, from investing to expand the capability and competitiveness of DOD-owned facilities that also serve the commercial launch industry. Rep. Posey's bill would permit such investments. (4/19)

Florida Defense Funds Survive Governor Budget Vetoes (Source: FLDC)
Proving Florida's continuing commitment to supporting its military installations, troops, families, and defense businesses, Governor Rick Scott left unharmed the legislature's funding for defense programs in the state budget. The Governor signed the budget Tuesday April 17, 2012, which included his veto messages. All state defense funding was approved by Governor Scott and none appeared on the veto list. The budget includes: $850,000 for a Defense Reinvestment Grant Program; $1.58 million for a Defense Infrastructure Grant Program; $150,000 for a Military Base Protection Program; and $2 million for a Florida Defense Support Task Force. (4/19)

India Missile Test a Success (Source: Daily Beast)
India launched a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile Thursday morning local time. The missile, which can reach points as far away as China and Europe, is able to carry a nuclear warhead. The Agni-V missile has a range of 3,100 miles and is a “quantum leap in India’s strategic capability,” a Indian defense department spokesman said. The government confirmed that the launch was a success. (4/19)

MicroThrust Ion Engine Could Send Cubesats to Lunar Orbit (Source: Space Safety)
The Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) has announced it has developed a lightweight propulsion system that could propel small satellites to the Moon using only 100mL of fuel. The entire propulsion system, which comprises an electric ion engine powered by photovoltaic solar cells, weighs only 200g including propellant, and is small enough to fit within the limited envelope of a standard CubeSat nanosatellite. (4/19)

U.S. Report Backs Sweeping Reform of Satellite Export Rules (Source: Space News)
Most communications satellites and some low-performing remote sensing satellites could, for export purposes, be treated as nonmilitary technology without any harm to national security, a long-awaited and overdue report from the U.S. government concluded. The report from the U.S. State and Defense departments, released April 18, said that many satellites and satellite components could be transferred to the Commerce Department’s Commerce Control List. Currently these items fall on the U.S. Munitions List, which is administered by the Department of State. (4/19)

Russian Space Freighter to Undock from ISS (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Progress M-14M cargo spacecraft will undock from the ISS on Thursday and will conduct a series of tests before being buried in the Pacific, a Mission Control source said. “The spacecraft is to undock from the Pirs docking module of the Russian ISS segment at 15:04 Moscow time [11:04 GMT],” the source said. “After a series of experiments in physics it will be de-orbited and sunk in a non-navigational area in the Pacific Ocean.” (4/19)

Missile Defense Chief: N.Korea Space Program no Threat to U.S. (Source: RIA Novosti)
North Korea is far from being able to threaten the United States with a long-range missile, Director of the Missile Defense Agency Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly said. The official said North Korea’s progress “has not been made apparent” in the recent failed rocket launch, which the U.S. claims was a cover for a ballistic missile test banned under UN resolutions. (4/18)

Third Shuttle Monument Placed in Titusville (Source: Florida Today)
The third shuttle monument with 144 names was put in place at the U.S. Space Walk of Fame on Wednesday. The pylon was assembled, engraved and delivered by Warren Lackie, 69, and his son, Paul Lackie, 47, of Melbourne. The monument took about three months to assemble, including 100 hours for engraving by an etching machine. The fourth shuttle monument is expected to be ready in about three weeks. (4/19)

Skybox Raises $70 Million for Satellite Imaging Venture (Source: Skybox)
Skybox Imaging, an early-stage provider of satellite imagery, video, and big data analytics, today announced that it has raised $70 million in Series C financing led by Canaan Partners and Norwest Venture Partners. They join existing investors Khosla Ventures and Bessemer Venture Partners, bringing the total amount raised to date to $91 million.

Skybox plans to use the capital to complete development and launch of its first two high-resolution imaging microsatellites, SkySat-1 and SkySat-2. It will also use the funds to grow its team of software engineers and data scientists. SkySat-1 is slated to launch in fourth quarter of 2012 aboard an International Space Company (ISC) Kosmotras Dnepr rocket. (4/17)

Need for Space ‘Rules of Road’ Grows Along with Orbital Congestion (Source: Space News)
The future ability of nations and companies to utilize space will be at grave risk in the absence of multinational cooperation and the establishment of “rules of the road” governing activities in the increasingly crowded orbital environment, a senior U.S. State Department official warned. Frank A. Rose, deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy, voiced his concern at an address April 18 at the 28th National Space Symposium. (4/19)

More Emerging Nations Embracing Space Applications (Source: Space News)
While much of the U.S. space industry reels from federal budget cuts and frets about the future of manned missions, overseas markets are expanding as more nations embrace space for communications, environmental monitoring, resource management and disaster response, according to members of an April 17 panel discussing space applications in emerging nations. (4/19)

Asteroid Mission Planning Continues with NEEMO 16 International Crew (Source: NasaSpaceFlight.com)
NASA, ESA and JAXA astronauts will all be involved in the upcoming NEEMO 16 (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) mission. The asteroid training mission - set to take place near the Florida coastline in June - comes at a time NASA managers continue to refine their deep space plans. The underwater training exercises are staged at the Aquarius underwater habitat in Key Largo, Florida – simulating the conditions and protocols for a real Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) mission. (4/19)

SLS Manager to Speak in Florida on May 8 (Source: Florida Today)
Todd May from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will be the guest speaker at the National Space Club meeting May 8. May manages the Space Launch System Program Office at NASA’s Marshall facility in Hunsville, Ala. The Space Launch System will be the nation’s next heavy-lift launch vehicle for human exploration in Earth orbit and beyond, and will be the first exploration-class vehicle since Saturn. (4/19)

Second Space Race Gains Momentum, Funding and Support (Source: Collegiate Times)
The close of the shuttle program is the opposite of what appears to be a drop off of the space program for Americans. The void left by the shuttle will be overflowed with privately manufactured spacecrafts, as well as future NASA projects down the road. Leading the way on this project is a California company, SpaceX. Not to say that NASA isn’t still an important part of the space program. The future of NASA should consist of grand projects and research, totally unmotivated by direct profit. (4/19)

Don't Mourn the Space Shuttle. Privatize Interstellar Exploration. (Source: Forbes)
It’s been real, Space Shuttle. Actually, it hasn’t. A lot of money (over $200 billion) and a lot of gauzy dreams, and proof that people of all nations (or at least a few) can twirl around with equal felicity in zero gravity. It’s no wonder governments are putting the orbiting vanity trips on the back burner: “People have lost interest in spaceflight,” says James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “You hear complaints even in China that the money would be better spent on the ground on healthcare and social services.”

Some political and policy figures are annoyed. Congressional Republicans lambasted president Obama’s decision to scrap the Constellation program, and some thinktankers still hope to build excitement around a conservative approach to space. The libertarian approach to space hardly needs to appeal to some kooky vision of posthumanism to gain traction. Space exploration is humanism. Space tourism, however profitable and adventurous, is a pale shadow of the future. Really, the best space policy is no policy, because we’re hardwired to ‘privatize’ interstellar exploration all by ourselves. (4/19)

Let the Private Space Race Begin! (Source: Reason)
Let's face it: Once we beat the Russians to the moon, the national rocket grew limper than Liberace at a speculum convention. NASA has been dining out on a single 1969 hit longer than Zager and Evans. The good news is that amateur hour is now over and the private space race has begun. Where two Cold War superpowers failed, let a thousand business plans bloom! The future of space is in the hands of the guys behind Amazon, PayPal, and Virgin. The force of competition will create endless possibilities and unimaginable technologies. No more talking about how the space program brought us Tang and Tempur-Pedic mattresses. We're going to Mars, baby, in business class. (4/19)

Space Needle Announces Finalists for Space Trip Prize (Source: Space Needle)
Eight months after announcing Space Race 2012, a program that celebrates its iconic history, the Space Needle has chosen five lucky finalists to compete in a variety of challenges for a chance to fulfill their dream of traveling into space. The contestants will gather in Seattle next month to kick-off the last leg of the competition, with the winner being announced on May 9. Editor's Note: Jacksonville's John Roberts is not among this latest group of finalists. (4/19)

Wildlife Officials Yet to Estimate Impact of SpaceX Texas Spaceport (Source: Brownsville Herald)
Jennifer Owen White, refuge manager for the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, said officials are in the process of evaluating the situation. Most of the Boca Chica Beach area is part of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Wildlife refuge, which is one of three refuges in the Valley, she said.

The area under consideration is home to numerous wildlife including the shorebirds, terns and gulls, plus the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. The grasslands serve as home to the endangered species such as the Texas indigo snake and the Texas tortoise. Owen White said once wildlife officials have a better handle on how it will affect the wildlife and habitats the refuge it protects, officials would be able to “more clearly give an opinion on the situation.” (4/19)

Fraudsters Phish in ISRO Waters (Source: DNA)
Space enthusiasts and students, beware! Do not get lured by emails that land in your inbox, promising you an exciting job in the field of space or a registration for participating in a major international space conference that is to be held in July in Mysore. India's premier space agency Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has alerted people about the spurious mails that appear to be from the space agency and asked them not to heed the emails. (4/19)

Opposing Lawyers Sum Up JPL 'Intelligent Design' Case (Source: La Canada Valley Sun)
Attorneys argued Monday that it was either religious intolerance or workplace incompetence that drove systems administrator David Coppedge from a post at Jet Propulsion Laboratory last year. Monday’s arguments capped a five-week trial in Coppedge’s lawsuit against the NASA lab in La CaƱada Flintridge, in which he claimed he was removed from his job in 2011 because of his advocacy of the theory of intelligent design of the universe.

“This is a series of retaliation — a series of subtly damaging injuries all starting from David’s reaction” to discriminatory actions taken by supervisors, said William Becker, Coppedge’s attorney. Becker has argued that when Coppedge was told to stop lending DVDs on intelligent design or discussing California's anti-gay marriage referendum, he was being persecuted for his Christian beliefs. “They don't have a policy against discussing religion and politics, so they essentially singled him out. He was forbidden from doing something everybody else was allowed to do,” Becker said.

Concurrently, JPL's lawyers have steadfastly insisted Coppedge's tribulations were self-inflicted, the product of stubbornness and a refusal to listen. JPL attorney James Zapp said more than 15 people had complained to Coppedge's supervisors over the years about his customer service, saying he was stubborn and hard to deal with. Administrators repeatedly told Coppedge the issue was how he was interacting with people, not what he was saying, Zapp said. (4/19)

Woman in Space: The Long-Delayed Flight of Wally Funk (Source: TIME)
Wally Funk of Roanoke, Texas, is one of the 500 or so civilians from 50 countries around the world who want to visit outer space. She has written a check to Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic company for the $200,000 ticket; others have put at least $20,000 down. She has twice visited Spaceport America in New Mexico, where they will take off and land, and has met both many of her fellow passengers and the blond billionaire who is their heavenly sponsor. Like the others, she is staying in shape for the medical exam that will precede the space flight.

Funk, who says she is "73 going on 45," is unique. She could have been the first American woman in space, having trained as an astronaut in a little-remembered program for women in the 1960s. Why didn't she become an astronaut? NASA wasn't officially interested in females in space back then, so a private foundation (with NASA support) put together a course of physical and mental tests in Albuquerque, N.M., similar to those used to train the all-male Mercury 7. Twenty-five women were invited, 19 enrolled, and 13 graduated, including Funk, who at 21 was the youngest. (4/19)

Countdown Begins for StratoLaunch (Source: Daily Mail)
Just three years from now test flights will begin for the world's largest plane ever to launch passengers and cargo into orbit. It's being funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who's teamed up with aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan to build 'Roc' - which will be powered by six 747 engines and have wings longer than a football field. It will take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port to carry a rocket high into the atmosphere and drop it - avoiding the need for a launch pad and the expense of additional rocket fuel. Click here. (4/19)

Race for Renewables' Game-changers Heats Up (Source: Renewable Energy World)
Some are casting their gaze upward for the answer, very high upward — about 6700 meters where potential exists for space-based solar power or satellite solar. Not so long ago it seemed far-fetched that orbiting satellites could collect solar energy and beam it to earth. But now, the chase is on to master the technology by researchers in the U.S., U.K., Japan, India and China. If they succeed, solar satellites could become one of the most disruptive energy technologies yet. In theory they could collect solar energy 24 hours per day, with no interruption from weather or darkness, and provide the world with much of the baseload electricity it needs.

Because there is nothing to block the sun’s rays in space, satellite solar panels could collect up to 25 times more power than those on earth, according to U.K.-based developer Orbital Power. Equipped with solar panels, the satellites would collect the sun’s energy, convert it to radio waves and then beam the energy to a collector on the earth’s surface where it would be converted to electricity and shipped to homes and businesses over existing transmission and distribution lines. Click here. (4/17)

Invisible Aliens: They’re Not Life as We Know It — Yet (Source: Smart Planet)
Whoops. Over the past four decades, NASA has launched a long series of exploratory probes to distant worlds in our solar system. It has sent up the Kepler space telescope to search for planets around other stars. All these missions have nurtured a hope, however faint, that astronomers might one day see unambiguous signs for life elsewhere in the universe. So it is only with the deepest sense of irony that one can hear the recent news that 36 years ago, scientists might have seen but disregarded proof of life on our closest planetary neighbor, Mars.

Don’t judge the experts too harshly, however. The problem of how to recognize alien life — life that might be radically unlike anything ever seen on Earth even at the molecular level — has been tormenting would-be exobiologists since the early days of space exploration. What may be most surprising, though, is that this is not just a problem facing space scientists. Some biologists suspect that we may be overlooking alien types of life right here on Earth, too, even though they may be in fairly plain sight. Click here. (4/18)

Europe Needs to Profit From Human Spaceflight (Source: DW)
Europe's top astronaut says keeping humans in space is important for Earth-based research - and that it makes financial sense. The European Space Agency (ESA) director of human spaceflight and operations, Thomas Reiter, said there was a simple reason why Europe should continue space missions: European countries have already invested considerable sums in the International Space Station, particularly the Columbus laboratory that permanently attached to the ISS, and "now it is time to reap the harvest."

Funding is the key reason Europe focuses on unmanned space missions rather than creating its own means of putting people into space. Instead, ESA researchers rely on robots that are capable of performing several tasks while in space. But Reiter said the presence of human beings in space remains crucial, especially for medial research and experiments. Click here. (4/18)

Colorado Governor to Sign Bill to Further Expand Aerospace Competitiveness (Source: MDEDC)
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will sign into law a bill that will position Colorado to capitalize on significant new opportunities in commercial space transportation. Gov. Hickenlooper will sign Senate Bill 35 during an industry luncheon on April 19 at the 28th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, the premier gathering of the global space community. The law limits liability for companies that would operate space flights from the proposed Spaceport Colorado. (4/18)

Serious Blow to Dark Matter Theories? (Source: ESO)
The most accurate study so far of the motions of stars in the Milky Way has found no evidence for dark matter in a large volume around the Sun. According to widely accepted theories, the solar neighborhood was expected to be filled with dark matter, a mysterious invisible substance that can only be detected indirectly by the gravitational force it exerts. But a new study by a team of astronomers in Chile has found that these theories just do not fit the observational facts. This may mean that attempts to directly detect dark matter particles on Earth are unlikely to be successful. Click here. (4/18)

Secretive Space Robot Startup to Unveil Ambitious Plans, Big-Name Backers (Source: GeekWire)
Arkyd Astronautics, a Seattle-area startup led by a NASA veteran and involving some of the biggest names in the commercial space industry, is preparing to unveil its mission “to revolutionize space exploration activities and ultimately create a better standard of living on Earth.” That’s the description from an event scheduled for next week at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, where the company is expected to talk about its plans publicly for the first time.

The startup’s mission sounds ambitious, but the company has the type of team that could pull it off. Arkyd’s president and chief engineer is Chris Lewicki, a former senior flight systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who also served as flight director for the space agency’s Spirit and Opportunity Rovers on their missions to Mars, and surface mission manager for the Phoenix Mars Rover.

GeekWire first ran across Arkyd last year, after spotting a job listing for the company. Arkyd’s website remains bare-bones, but its LinkedIn profile says it “develops technology and systems to enable low-cost commercial robotic exploration of the solar system.” Also involved with the company is Peter Diamandis, best known as the creator of the X Prize Foundation, which runs competitions to spur breakthroughs in space and other areas. Washington state corporations filings list Diamandis as a director of the company. (4/18)

House GOP Unveils cuts to NASA, Science Funding (Source: The Hill)
The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday proposed cutting Commerce, Justice and Science-related agencies by $1.6 billion next year, as part of an effort to shave $19 billion in total 2013 spending compared to the levels agreed to with Democrats last August. The 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill contains $51.1 billion in funding, $731 million below what President Obama requested. On Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee passed a bill at the level of the president's request.

A large chunk of savings comes from NASA — which faces a $226 million cut, mostly due to the end of the Space Shuttle program. The NASA budget keeps the James Webb Space Telescope intact, something the GOP tried to gut in the past. Science research grant programs are also hit with a $378 million cut, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) gets $79 million more. (4/18)

Companies Lament Lack of Support for Advanced R&D (Source: SPACErePORT)
Companies exhibiting at the National Space Symposium expressed frustration with a trend by the Federal Government to purchase existing space-related systems and hardware, instead of procuring services. By buying legacy systems for operation by agencies or their contractors, the government is stifling investments in innovation and R&D by companies that would seek to compete to provide services. An example of how the government should be operating is NASA's commercial crew and cargo programs, which indirectly encourage companies to innovate to meet the governments' requirements. (4/18)

Florida High School Teams Do Well at Moonbuggy Race (Source: SPACErePORT)
Two teams from Jupiter High School in Florida placed fifth and sixth in the high school division in last week's Great Moonbuggy Race. The Huntsville-based race attracted 87 high school and university teams from 20 states, Puerto Rico, Germany, India, Italy, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates. Two Puerto Rico teams took first and second place in the high school division. (4/18)

Boeing Wins Appeal in ICO Global Case (Source: Space News)
A California appeals court ruling in favor of Boeing’s satellite division will deprive Pendrell Corp. — the former ICO Global Communications – of an $800 million cash payment and appears to close the books on a 15-year effort by cellular pioneer Craig O. McCaw to create a satellite broadband network. The April 13 decision by California’s Second District Court of Appeal reverses a 2008 decision by the California Superior Court jury, which awarded ICO Global $603 million in damages against Boeing Satellite Systems International and Boeing Co. (4/18)

Senator Asks NASA About Alleged Disclosure of Sensitive Information (Source: Science)
NASA chief Charles Bolden is reviewing a request from a U.S. senator for a briefing on alleged misconduct at the agency's Ames Research Center (ARC) in California. The allegations appear to involve violations of U.S. laws meant to guard national secrets. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, today asked "to be briefed by knowledgeable NASA officials" on "serious allegations from whistleblowers." (4/18)

'Rogue' Alien Planets May Circle Billions of Stars (Source: Space.com)
Billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy have captured rogue alien planets that once cruised freely through interstellar space, a new study suggests. Many wandering alien worlds, which were ejected from the solar systems in which they formed, likely find new homes with different suns, according to the study. The finding could explain why some alien planets orbit extremely far from their stars, researchers said. "Stars trade planets just like baseball teams trade players," study lead author Hagai Perets, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in a statement. (4/18)

Rare Cosmic Effect Sheds Light on Galaxy Cluster Motion (Source: Discovery)
Astronomers have confirmed a 40-year-old prediction that there should be tiny variations in the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) as a result of moving clusters of galaxies. T

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